A tribute to Gene Autry

A tribute to Gene Autry

Posted: Thursday, July 31, 2008 10:14 pm
By: By Don Harold Lawrence

On Oct. 2, 1998, Gene Autry died at his home in Los Angeles, Calif. His death followed the death of Roy Rogers on July 6 by only three months. These two legendary cowboy heroes were like giants to many of us who were impressionable children when their films were popular, and their deaths, which came so close together, mark the end of a very special era. Gene died only two days after his 91st birthday. He was born on a ranch in Tioga, Texas, on Sept. 29, 1907. He was only 12 years old when he purchased his first guitar, and his musical talent eventually led to his career as the first “singing cowboy.” According to the Biography series on the A & E Television Network, Gene was encouraged by Will Rogers to enter the world of entertainment. His talents for acting and singing carried him from stage to radio, and then on to motion pictures and television. His singing career began on radio in 1928, and between 1929 and 1964 he recorded 635 songs, the first of which was “My Dreaming of You.” Among the many favorites that are remembered by his fans are such titles as “Back in the Saddle Again,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” His movie career that began in 1934 with his first film, In Old Santa Fe, eventually involved him in 94 films. His last film, “The Silent Treatment,” which was made in 1964, was never released. In addition to movies, he also starred in 91 television productions. Two of Gene’s most unforgettable sidekicks in his movies were Smiley Burnette (March 18, 1911 to Feb. 16, 1967) and Pat Buttram (June 19, 1915 to Jan. 8, 1994) who co-hosted the Western Theater series of Gene Autry movies with Gene on TNN. Gene owned several hotels and a radio station, and he was the majority owner of the California Angels baseball team. According to A & E’s Biography, Gene spent much of his life collecting memorabilia from the era of the old west and cowboy days, and he has left all of this for the world to see in his famous Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum in Los Angeles. If you are interested in getting more information about his life, you will find his autobiography, Back in the Saddle Again, and A & E Television’s Biography series on Gene Autry to be very informative. Don Harold Lawrence is coordinator of SUNRISE, which is sponsored by Shackelford Corporation. He may be contacted by mail at 145 Abernathy Drive, Adamsville, TN 38310-3001 or by telephone or fax at (731) 632-4483. His Web address is www.shackelfordfuneraldirectors.com. Published in The Messenger 7.31.08

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